At 6, she tinkered with a circuit board; at 19, on the way to Cambridge to study engineering on a scholarship

Ong Ray Yi, 19, was one of the Public Service Commission (PSC) Scholarship (Engineering) recipients.
Ong Ray Yi, 19, was one of the Public Service Commission (PSC) Scholarship (Engineering) recipients.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - As early as at the age of six, Ms Ong Ray Yi would accompany her engineer father to his workplace and question how a circuit board would work.

Now, as a 19-year-old, Ms Ong was one of the Public Service Commission (PSC) Scholarship (Engineering) recipients - which are given out this year for the first time.

"I have always loved figuring out how stuff works. My father would bring home gadgets from work all the time and so I grew up being exposed to the world of engineering, eventually finding my passion there," said the former Raffles Institution student on Monday (July 24) at the Istana where the scholarship ceremony was held.

Her father worked at tech giant Apple's research and development department.

Ms Ong will be going to the University of Cambridge in Britain to pursue engineering and hopes that when she returns, she will be able to create engineering solutions that contribute to Singapore's safety and security.

She is among four who received the engineering scholarship for those who want to work in the defence and security sector. The government is also granting the scholarship to those who wish to pursue careers in the infrastructure and environment, and infocommunications technology and smart systems sectors.

Monday's ceremony was a combined award event with the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and Ministry of Defence (Mindef) scholarships.

Speaking at the ceremony, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen expressed the concern that by 2030, National Service recruits are expected to reduce by one third, creating a disruptive change to the manpower SAF will have.

He added that managing this change "will require field commanders to work with engineers and scientists as one" and that is why the PSC Scholarship (Engineering) was awarded this year in combination with other defence-related scholarships.

A total of 63 scholarships were given out, with 30 from SAF and Mindef.

Seven recipients were presented with the SAF Scholarship, formerly known as the SAF Overseas Scholarship, and six were presented with the Defence Merit Scholarship. Another 15 received the SAF Merit Scholarship.

The SAF scholarship is widely recognised as only second in prestige to the President's Scholarship.

Past recipients of the SAF scholarship include Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister and coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing.

A current SAF Scholarship recipient Satesh Kumar Sukumar said he joined the SAF because of his interest in a military career and the meaning he found in what the SAF does.

The 19-year-old midshipman added: "In the SAF, at every level, you are leading men and women and pushing them to their limits to help them reach their potential. In that process there's a lot of personal growth and development as you are pushed to your limits as well, and that was one of the reasons I looked into applying for this scholarship."

He will be studying war studies and history at King's College London.

To SAF Merit Scholarship recipient Muhammad Alfian Aman, the award means easing the financial burden on his family.

The 20-year-old infantry officer's father was diagnosed with intestinal cancer in 2014. While his family is able to manage the medical bills, it is still not easy on them.

He said: "I feel privileged to have this scholarship because now my family does not need to worry about paying for my education."